My brother Ken was a fan of monster movies. Whenever Channel 7’s 4:30 movie would cycle around to monster week, he’d be there, glued to the set. For me, they didn’t do much, but for him, they were of great interest. So it’s no great surprise to me that he wound up buying this issue of GODZILLA when he came across it one day. Eventually, like so many others, it wound up in my possession.
Marvel’s licensed GODZILLA comic book was a bit of a strange egg. Marvel was doing a lot of licensed books at this point, and with seemingly no rhyme or reason, they would fall into two camps: the ones that got placed within the Marvel Universe of super heroes and the ones that didn’t. GODZILLA was firmly in the first category–presumably because the big lizard was going to need things powerful enough to go up against, and because he wasn’t going to be able to showcase all that much personality himself, since he didn’t speak. Familiar Marvel characters would help to carry some of the narrative weight.
Artistically, GODZILLA was the home of Herb Trimpe, a journeyman artist with years of Marvel work under his belt whose Jack Kirby-derived style was just starting to feel a little bit passe. Herb did great work on any number of assignments that no hotter or more popular artists coveted. He’s something of an overlooked mainstay in the Marvel canon. And while his style was always easily identified in part by its odd stiffness, he always told the story clearly and dramatically.
There wasn’t all that much story to be told in this issue of GODZILLA–there was really only enough plot to set up the central fight of the issue, between Godzilla and the giant robot Red Ronin, here piloted by twelve-year-old Rob Takigushi. Writer Doug Moench was taking his inspiration from the dozens of Japanese super-robot cartoons that had begun airing in Japan and making their way out into the rest of the world. Having Godzilla battle a Japanese super-robot must have seemed like a natural idea.
And it was a good idea–perhaps even too good. Because I found that I was much more invested in Red Ronin than I was in Godzilla himself, and wanted to see more of him. No Red Ronin series was forthcoming, but Marvel did license the rights to the Shogun Warriors (a line of toys based on a variety of those Japanese robot series) which was also produced by Moench and Trimpe, so this issue helped to prime the pump for that.
GODZILLA also featured the Agents of SHIELD as an entity that was in pursuit of the overgrown lizard, attempting to keep him from unleashing havoc and destruction upon the world. Nick Fury himself was absent, leaving Dum Dum Dugan in charge of the mini-Helicarrier code-named Behemoth. And other SHIELD agents such as Gabe Jones and Jimmy Woo would drop in on an as-needed basis. In effect, this made the book most resemble the HULK television series, with SHIELD in the role of the pursuing investigative reporter.
Oh, the story? SHIELD’s trying to prevent Godzilla from crashing through a nuclear missile base, and are aided in these efforts by Red Ronin, who has been shanghaied by Rob Takigushi. Rob feels that Godzilla isn’t a threat, and he wants to save the big lizard from SHIELD while also safeguarding everybody else. But Rob doesn’t really know how to control Red Ronin well, so a bunch of fighting breaks out. Eventually, though, Rob succeeds–and as Dum Dum fumes, Godzilla walks off into the sunset and into the next issue.